Cauldron of Unholy Loves
The story of his student days in Carthage, his discovery of Cicero’s Hortensius, the
enkindling of his philosophical interest, his infatuation with the Manichean heresy,
and his mother’s dream which foretold his eventual return to the true faith and to
Being in Love with Love
I remember as a little kid being so excited to go to Connecticut to visit my cousins. One reason was that it usually meant a trip to Hartford, which for a boy who grew up in small town Vermont was “the big city.” It was really exciting. Augustine seems to have felt the same way when he went to Carthage.
To be sure, some of the excitement for me was the newness, the energy and the excitement. There always seemed to be so much going on. There were experiences that were simply unavailable to me in Vermont. The zoo. The G. Fox Department store, riding the elevator where each floor was a different category of goods.
Of course I was a kid. For Augustine, the excitement was of a different nature. He was tempted by physical attractions, and the attractions of the arts and other opportunities given by the “big city.” The challenge for Augustine was that the emotions brought about by the characters on a stage. And these motions were silly insofar as they were real emotions brought about by talented actors, and so there was no real person for whom one should feel compassion.
What does seem clear reading this section is that in Augustine’s life there is now the ability to sort out the enticements of youth from the quest for wisdom that a longer life experience can bring. As he considers the beginning of his time in Carthage it is a consideration deeply colored by his later life.
What is truth?
What does seem apparent is the struggle that results from the search for the truth. What is truth? That was the very important question asked by Pilate. The struggle apparent in Augustine is seen in the attempt to reconcile the various aspects of truth. Actors stir real emotions even though the play is fiction. Being a good lawyer demands being crafty.
What is real, then? What is is that is necessary for a person to discover what lies beneath the surface? Talented actors, artists and teachers can evoke strong feelings in a way that real experiences may not. In a time where our own society can be one in search of truth, what is real, it seems that our own circumstance today is not that much different than the circumstance of Augustine.
The Turn to the Scriptures
As Augustine then seeks to find truth, he turns to the bible and is quite unimpressed. He found the bible simply suited to helping children. The style was simply and they seemed, as he says, “unworthy to be compared with the dignity of Tully.” So for those whose own story of conversion might not be immediate, we can take comfort in the experience of Augustine and the bible.
And yet how easy is it to dismiss something as too simple because we have too sophisticated a view of ourselves. It really can be pride that stands in the way from our experiencing those things which might help us to encounter the truth.
We might see this relate to ourselves insofar as we might dismiss the bible out of pride. We might say the bible is old, or too much like simple fairy tales we learned as a child. It may seem the case that the bible is just simply beneath our current sophistication.
Cauldron of Unholy Loves
Our soul, or at least my soul can feel like a cauldron of unholy loves. The very things I know I should do are too far removed from what I spend too much of my time on in my current life. It is too easy to disregard the holy loves when I become too caught up in fueling the cauldron of unholy loves.
As we continue with the Confessions of Saint Augustine, we will discover ways in which we can cool the cauldron of the unholy to embrace the cool peace which surpasses all understanding.
Questions to Ponder
- What is it that your first remember filling you with excitement?
- How did you first experience the Word of God?
- How does the Word of God today help you to grow closer to God?